WE ALL HAVE ONE

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We all have one. It’s a large area called the back of your head that you have trouble seeing. We call them blind spots, and we all have one. In fact, we all have many blind spots.

I cannot normally see the back of my head. Sometimes, certain circumstances arise in which I can see the back of my head or at least gain knowledge of what it looks like. For example, mirrors, pictures, and other observers can help me to see my blind spots.

Therein lies the value of diversity. Diversity by definition brings different viewpoints, ideas, and perspectives to the table. Some of those differences shed light on my blind spots.

It’s easy to think that your idea is perfect and the best. However, most ideas can be improved when we bring in the power of diversity. If we allow other people to offer their input, it often results in valuable improvements to your idea.

The next time that you think your idea is perfect, just ask yourself about the back of your head. You might be surprised at what you see.


WHY YOU CANNOT AFFORD DERAILED DIVERSITY

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A company can know a lot about diversity yet not fully implement diversity. Many reasons exist for this discrepancy. It’s one thing to sign onto a policy, it’s something else to take action on all levels. Leadership blockages can occur, personal bias can hinder, and blind spots can persist.

When Danielle Brown stepped in as the new chief diversity and inclusion officer at Intel, she made similar discoveries. Her narrative is revealing (as told to Vauhini Vara, Bloomberg Businessweek. 9/19/16–9/25/16, p. 54):

Our underrepresented employees of color continually left Intel in greater numbers than their white and Asian counterparts. I wanted to understand why. Intel really values tenure and the tribal knowledge that comes with working at a place for many years. A lot of our diverse employees happen to be newer, and they told me, ‘Look, you hired me for my experience, but now I’ve come in and you don’t value my external perspective.’ We also learned that a manager could make or break a person’s experience.

This is one of the most powerful, recent examples of diversity derailment I have seen. Brown’s discoveries highlight a couple crucial concepts to me:

  • Institutional Knowledge. Institutional knowledge is the collective consciousness and knowledge accumulated in any organization via its workforce. The longer the organization has existed and the larger the workforce, the more extensive and ingrained will be that institutional knowledge. Institutional knowledge is very good. It tells us how we operate. It preserves technical information, intellectual property, and corporate wisdom. However, institutional knowledge can subtly become very bad when it has an unconscious resistance to change . . . and diversity means change.
  • One Manager. As we’ve often heard said, very few workers leave a company. They leave a boss. That’s why Brown states that a manager can make or break the employee’s experience. This underscores the need for continuous reflection. Every organization from the top down and the bottom up must be in a state of continuously examining, testing, and refining how it does diversity because sadly, diversity can be derailed via one person. When that happens, everyone loses.

So what do we do about this? Here are two prescriptions that work:

  • Dealing With Institutional Knowledge. The hope and the goal is that we come to a place in which institutional knowledge is properly valued, preserved, and refined, yet with an ongoing openness to new information. Ultimately, diversity should infuse institutional knowledge so that both are preserved. As important as institutional knowledge is, it will have no use if the organization dies. Fighting diversity is one way to kill an organization.
  • Dealing With One Manager. Every manager should arrive at a place in which sufficient emotional intelligence and self-awareness prevail that diversity principles and practices are automatic. This demands commitment, training, and accountability. For the managers that can accomplish this, they will ultimately become better managers, and that means everyone wins, including the organization and its customers.

Is a diversity commitment going to cost your company some money? Yes, big time. However the ROI repeatedly vindicates diversity. So you can allocate more resources to diversity today and enjoy a larger payback tomorrow, or you can scrimp on diversity today and guarantee no payback tomorrow. The cost/benefit analysis, the smart solution, and the ethical imperative all rule in favor of investing in diversity today.


A BETTER DRIVE WITH THE DMV

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A few days ago I needed to do the difficult, disturbing, dangerous, disillusioning, depressing, despairing, disastrous date with the Department of Motor Vehicles to renew my driver’s license. The collective consciousness of America shudders at the thought, given all the horror stories we have faced in countless painful cases of red tape, bureaucracy, customer disservice, and unequivocal proof that Dilbert is alive and well at the DMV.

This time, however, was amazingly different. In fact, it was actually pleasant and helpful. The customer experience was far more terrific than I had ever experienced in the past or could even imagine.

Upon my arrival, I observed a set of front-and-center, can’t-miss-them kiosks. I instantly knew that I was supposed to do something at the kiosk. And so I did. It was a simple process of entering my name and my cell phone number. I instantly received a text that read:

Thanks! Your estimated wait is now 40 minutes. We’ll let you know when you reach the front. Feel free to leave until you are next in line.

Wow! Although there is a wait time, at least they were respecting my time and effort. Happily, I left the building to run a quick errand or two nearby. Upon my return, while resting a bit in my car, I received another text:

Status update from Driver License: Not ready yet, but your estimated wait is now 13 minutes. Please head to Liberty License Office.

Wow again! The DMV was doing something that actually was logical, sensible, and helpful to me! And all this wow stuff before I even got to the human.

It was only moments before a gentleman called me over for the renewal process. Instead of being greeted by someone who looked stressed, depressed, burned out, and mean, this person appeared invigorated, eager, happy, smiling, and kind.

Although all my paperwork was in order, I had a couple technical questions along the way. The gentleman patiently answered them. His boss is doing something right!

I cannot guarantee that your next DMV visit will be as nice as mine was. Each state and each office is different. However, my customer experience was absolutely stellar.

I somewhat hate to say it this way, but here we go: When even the DMV realizes the need to create a stellar customer experience, then you know that your organization can do no less. Your success and your organization’s success depends on it.


DODGING THE DIGITAL DOSAGE DANGERS

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Businesses and individuals have an ethical obligation to protect those most vulnerable to our world’s dangers. In many cases, we have done a phenomenal job. In some cases, we have failed tragically. That is why I paid particular attention to the American Academy of Pediatrics’ report last week containing specific recommendations about children’s use of media and parental responsibility.

The AAP report is based on an analysis of how children’s media use affects their development in such areas as thinking, sleep, socialization, academics, and communication. The AAP acknowledges the tremendous good that comes from media use. However, it provides some very good age-appropriate guidelines to help parents structure, format, and limit media exposure.

While I am never one to adopt practices just because a particular organization makes the recommendation, I do think that these guidelines are effective for any child’s development. Here are some of the key recommendations:

  • For children younger than 18 months, avoid use of screen media other than video-chatting. Parents of children 18 to 24 months of age who want to introduce digital media should choose high-quality programming, and watch it with their children to help them understand what they’re seeing.
  • For children ages 2 to 5 years, limit screen use to 1 hour per day of high-quality programs. Parents should co-view media with children to help them understand what they are seeing and apply it to the world around them.
  • For children ages 6 and older, place consistent limits on the time spent using media, and the types of media, and make sure media does not take the place of adequate sleep, physical activity and other behaviors essential to health.
  • Designate media-free times together, such as dinner or driving, as well as media-free locations at home, such as bedrooms.
  • Have ongoing communication about online citizenship and safety, including treating others with respect online and offline.

We don’t have to search very long to see how these guidelines could have prevented numerous modern online and in-person disasters. My only regret is that the AAP did not release these recommendations sooner. After all, we must help our kids control the beast before the beast controls them.


BEWARE THE RABBIT TRAILS

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When it comes to personal productivity and efficiency, you have to watch those rabbit trails. You know what I’m talking about. It is those little diversions and temptations that can subtly pull you away from what you really should be doing. We all struggle with them.  Here are some of the more interesting ones that others have been brave enough to share.

Sia Mohajer (founder of Market Monkey) explains how sometimes you can start with good intentions, but still end up down a rabbit trail (Katie Morell “How Do You Waste Time at Work?” Bloomberg Businessweek. 10/10/16–10/16/16, p. 70):

I start my day feeling anxious that I haven’t completed, or even started, my clients’ work. I make a list. After that, I make a sublist. Finally, I start doing research for my first list and add more items to it. . . . [then] I realize that I’ve done nothing other than make lists.

That one also sounds like a close cousin to the paralysis of analysis rabbit trail.

Brian Cherhoniak (co-founder of personal-finance blog Beating Break-Even) reminds us how some of that “window shopping” may ultimately be a total waste of time:

I search for luxury pillows on Amazon. I have been searching for the perfect pillow for five years. My cart has over 200 in there, but I haven’t purchased one yet.

I think Brian has more in his cart than I do in a lifetime!

Terence Channon (managing director of startup studio, SaltMines Group) confesses that sometimes rabbit trails can suck in an entire group of people at once:

I found a cool app that allows me to play Risk. A few team members were intrigued, so I loaded up a replay of my most recent game on our big screen, and we all watched, turn by turn. Everyone was so into it that we started commentating on each move, like at a sporting event. We did this for 90 minutes before we felt inspired to work.

Hey, haven’t you been reading this too long? Watch out for those rabbit trails!